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Full text of "CMH Pub 19-9 The Korean War: Restoring The Balance, 25 January - 8 July 1951"

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Restoring the Balance 


The Korean War was the first major armed clash between Free 
World and Communist forces, as the so-called Cold War turned hot. The 
half-century that now separates us from that conflict, however, has 
dimmed our collective memory. Many Korean War veterans have consid- 
ered themselves forgotten, their place in history sandwiched between the 
sheer size of World War II and the fierce controversies of the Vietnam 
War. The recently built Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National 
Mall and the upcoming fiftieth anniversary commemorative events 
should now provide well-deserved recognition. I hope that this series of 
brochures on the campaigns of the Korean War will have a similar effect. 

The Korean War still has much to teach us: about military prepared- 
ness, about global strategy, about combined operations in a military 
alliance facing blatant aggression, and about the courage and persever- 
ance of the individual soldier. The modern world still lives with the con- 
sequences of a divided Korea and with a militarily strong, economically 
weak, and unpredictable North Korea. The Korean War was waged on 
land, on sea, and in the air over and near the Korean peninsula. It lasted 
three years, the first of which was a seesaw struggle for control of the 
peninsula, followed by two years of positional warfare as a backdrop to 
extended cease-fire negotiations. The following essay is one of five 
accessible and readable studies designed to enhance understanding of 
the U.S. Army's role and achievements in the Korean conflict. 

During the next several years the Army will be involved in many 
fiftieth anniversary activities, from public ceremonies and staff rides to 
professional development discussions and formal classroom training. 
The commemoration will be supported by the publication of various 
materials to help educate Americans about the war. These works will 
provide great opportunities to learn about this important period in the 
Army's heritage of service to the nation. 

This brochure was prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military 
History by John J. McGrath. I hope this absorbing account, with its list 
of further readings, will stimulate further study and reflection. A com- 
plete listing of the Center of Military History's available works on the 
Korean War is included in the Center's online catalog: . 

Brigadier General, USA 
Chief of Military History 

Restoring the Balance 
25 January-8 July 1951 

The period from late January to early July 1951 was critical for the 
United Nations (UN) Command in Korea. Recovering from the disas- 
trous retreat that followed the Chinese Communist Forces ( CCF) mili- 
tary intervention in November 1950, UN forces endured two massive 
CCF campaigns that threatened to push them off the peninsula. Amid 
desperate fighting, the UN troops managed to hold on, regroup, and 
counterattack each enemy initiative, finally establishing a strong 
defensive line across the middle of the peninsula. Their sacrifices 
finally stabilized the battlefield and provided the foundation for the 
cease-fire and negotiations that followed. 

These bitter struggles also saw a major shift in U.S. policy and 
strategy. For American policymakers, the Korean War became an 
economy of force operation with limited objectives. The World War II 
concept of total victory and unconditional surrender was supplanted 
by the more limited goal of restoring Republic of Korea (ROK or 
South Korea) to its general prewar boundaries and implementing an 
effective cease-fire agreement. As one of its unexpected consequences, 
this strategic shift also saw the dismissal of the UN commander, 
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, when he openly criticized 
the new limitations. But with the nuclear monopoly enjoyed by the 
United States quickly fading, the threat of worldwide atomic war tem- 
pered the options available to U.S. officials. Campaign objectives were 
thus increasingly limited to gaining control of key defensible terrain 
and using battlefield attrition to force the other side into negotiations. 

Strategic Setting 

Approximately 600 miles long and between 125 and 200 miles 
wide, the Korean peninsula is mountainous and frequently cut by 
waterways of all sizes generally flowing down from the mountains into 
the sea. In the central section of the peninsula, where much of the 
fighting in early 1951 occurred, the terrain was particularly rugged. 
The western portion was a minor coastal plain marked by estuaries 
formed from the Han, Imjin, and Pukhan Rivers. In the center, the 
Hwach'on Reservoir was the most prominent feature. Except in the 
most rugged areas, villages and towns dotted the landscape. The road 
network was primitive and greatly affected by the weather. 

By January 1951 the Korean 
War was six months old. The 
invasion by North Korea 
(Democratic People's Republic of 
Korea) in June 1950 had driven 
the UN forces into a headlong 
retreat to the Pusan Perimeter. In 
a spectacular reversal of fortune, 
the amphibious landing of UN 
forces at Inch'on in mid- 
September triggered a collapse of 
the North Korean People's Army 
that was only stopped by the 
enormity of the Chinese interven- 
tion in October and November. 
The entry into the war of major 
Chinese military forces rocked 
the overextended UN troops and 
sent them reeling back into South 
Korea. For a time it seemed that 
the UN forces might have to 
abandon the peninsula, resulting 
in a complete Communist victory. 

Only by trading space for time and by pummeling the advancing 
Chinese with artillery fire and air strikes did the new UN commander, 
Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, halt the enemy. 

General Ridgway 
(National Archives) 


On the eve of the renewal of full-scale UN offensive operations, 
the Eighth Army consisted of 178,464 American soldiers and marines, 
223,950 ROK Army troops, and UN ground contingents from 
Australia, France, India, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Sweden, 
Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. These forces were orga- 
nized into five corps, from west to east: I, IX, and X and the ROK III 
and I. In general, ROK forces held the more easily defended, rugged 
terrain in the east, while U.S. forces were positioned on the lower, flat- 
ter areas in the west, where their greater mobility and firepower were 
more decisive. 

Arrayed against the UN forces were some 290,000 Chinese and 
North Korean soldiers. The Chinese were organized into seven corps- 
size armies and twenty-two divisions, 204,000 strong, primarily hold- 


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ing the western and central por- 
tions of the front. About 52,000 
North Korean soldiers, in turn, 
organized into three corps and 
fourteen understrength divisions, 
held the eastern sector. In addition, 
an estimated 30,000 North Korean 
guerrillas were still behind UN 
lines in the mountainous areas of 
eastern South Korea. Although the 
Chinese had halted their offensive 
after heavy casualties, they had no 
shortage of manpower. Supply dif- 
ficulties, rather than casualties, had 
stopped the Chinese Communists' 
drive south, encouraging American 
commanders, in turn, to resume 
their own offensive north. 

On 20 January 1951, General 
Ridgway, Eighth Army commander, 
issued a directive designed to con- 
vert his current reconnaissance 
operations into a deliberate counter- 
attack. Since the enemy situation 
was still unclear, the action, code- 
named Operation Thunderbolt, 
was designed to discover enemy 
dispositions and intentions with a 
show of force. The operation had 
the additional objective of dislodg- 
ing any enemy forces south of the 
Han River, the major estuary running southeast from the Yellow Sea 
through Seoul and beyond. The projected attacks did not represent a 
full-scale offensive. Phase lines — lines drawn on maps with specific 
reporting and crossing instructions — would be used to control tightly the 
advance of the I and IX Corps. The units were to avoid becoming heavi- 
ly engaged. To accomplish this, each corps would commit only a single 
U.S. division and ROK regiment. This use of terrain-based phase lines 
and of limited advances with large forces in reserve was to become the 
standard procedure for UN offensive operations for the rest of the war. 

The first, or western, phase of Operation Thunderbolt lasted 
from 25 to 31 January. The I and IX Corps moved up to twenty miles 


into the area south of Seoul. Only the Turkish Brigade, attached to the 
U.S. 25th Infantry Division, east of Osan, a major city twenty miles 
south of Seoul, encountered stiff resistance. Elsewhere opposition was 
light, and the Chinese merely conducted rearguard actions rather than 
hold their ground. On the twenty-sixth, Suwon, north of Osan, with its 
large airfield complex, was recaptured. Close air support sorties sup- 
ported the advance, damaging enemy lines of communications and 
pounding points of resistance. 

As January neared its end, Chinese resistance began gradually to 
increase, indicating that the main enemy line had almost been reached. 
On 27 January the U.S. 3d Infantry Division joined the attack in the I 

The 96th Field Artillery Battalion winds its way through the mountains 
to the 1st Cavalry Division area, 26 January 1951. (National Archives) 

Corps sector, and on the twenty-ninth Ridgway converted 
Thunderbolt into a full-scale offensive with X Corps joining the 
offensive on its eastern flank. The I and IX Corps continued a steady, 
if slow, advance to the Han River against increasingly more vigorous 
enemy defenses. On 2 February armored elements of the X Corps 
reached Wonju, located in the central section fifty miles southeast of 
Seoul. Other elements of the X Corps recaptured Hoengsong, ten 
miles north of Wonju, the same day. 

As part of the I Corps attack, the U.S. 25th Infantry Division 
advanced against stiff enemy resistance in high ground south of Seoul. 
One obstacle, Hill 180, an enemy strongpoint located near Soam-ni, 
proved particularly difficult. Capt. Lewis L. Millett of Company E, 
27th Infantry, 25th Division, led his company against that hill in a dra- 
matic bayonet and grenade assault. The tank-infantry task force to 
which Millett's company belonged had been held up for several days 
by a determined, mixed force of Chinese and North Koreans. In the 
resulting hand-to-hand combat, the American shock action carried the 
day, routing the enemy from his well-entrenched positions atop the 
hill. The surviving defenders fled the battlefield, leaving their equip- 


ment and weapons behind, while Millett, in the thick of the fighting, 
was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor. 

Actions such as Millett's sustained the UN offensive despite fierce 
Communist resistance. On 9 February the enemy defense opposite I 
and IX Corps gave way. Soon UN units in the west were racing north- 
ward. The U.S. 25th Infantry Division retook Inch' on and Kimpo 
Airfield as elements of I Corps closed on the south bank of the Han 
opposite Seoul. 

While the three U.S. corps advanced west and into the center, 
General Ridgway decided to expand the offensive to the east by com- 
mitting additional elements of the X Corps and the ROK III Corps 
(under X Corps control) in an operation code-named Roundup. 
Roundup's object was the expansion of the offensive to the central 
sector of the front. The X Corps' ROK 5th and 8th Divisions were to 
retake Hongch'on, fifteen miles north of Hoengsong, and in the 
process destroy the North Korean forces in that vicinity. U.S. forces 
supporting the movement included the 2d and 7th Infantry Divisions 
and the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT). Roundup 
would also protect the right flank of Thunderbolt. Farther east, the 
ROK III Corps, on X Corps' right flank and still under its control, 
would also advance north. The operation commenced on 5 February, 
with both the X and the ROK III Corps attacking steadily, but against 
increasing enemy resistance. 

While UN forces in Operation Thunderbolt advanced to an area 
just south of the Han against only minor resistance, Chinese and North 
Korean forces were massing in the central sector north of Hoengsong 
seeking to renew their offensive south. On the night of 1 1-12 February 
the enemy struck with five Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) 
armies and two North Korean corps, totaling approximately 135,000 
soldiers. The main effort was against X Corps' ROK divisions north of 
Hoengsong. The Chinese attack, dramatically announced with bugle 
calls and drum beating, penetrated the ROK line and forced the South 
Koreans into a ragged withdrawal to the southeast via snow-covered 
passes in the rugged mountains. The ROK units, particularly the 8th 
Division, were badly battered in the process, creating large holes in the 
UN defenses. Accordingly, UN forces were soon in a general with- 
drawal to the south in the central section, giving up most of the terrain 
recently regained. Despite an attempt to form a solid defensive line, 
Hoengsong itself was abandoned on 13 February. 

Also on the thirteenth the Chinese broadened the offensive against 
the X Corps with attacks against U.S. 2d Infantry Division positions 
near Chip'yong-ni, on the left of the corps' front. They also struck far- 


11-18 February 1951 





ther to the west out of a bridgehead south of the Han near Yangp'yong 
against elements of the U.S. 24th Infantry Division, holding the IX 
Corps' right flank. The 21st Infantry of the 24th Division quickly con- 
tained the Yangp'yong attack that was aimed toward Suwon, but at 
Chip'yong-ni the Chinese encircled the 2d Division's 23d Infantry and 
its attached French Army battalion, cleverly exploiting a gap in the 
overextended American lines. 

Chip'yong-ni was a key road junction surrounded by a ring of 
small hills. Rather than have the 23d Infantry withdraw, General 
Ridgway directed that the position be held to block or delay Chinese 
access to the nearby Han River Valley. An enemy advance down the 
east bank of the Han would threaten the positions of the IX and I 
Corps west of the river. Accordingly, the UN forces at Chip'yong-ni 
dug into the surrounding hills and formed a solid perimeter while rein- 
forcements were mustered. The role of the Air Force was essential at 
Chip'yong-ni with close air support forcing the attackers to conduct 
their assaults only after dark. And once the enemy had cut off the 
ground routes, all resupply was by air. 

As Ridgway hoped, the 5,000 defenders of Chip'yong-ni quickly 
became the focus of Chinese attention. Throughout the night of 13-14 


February, three Chinese divisions assaulted the perimeter, supported 
by artillery. The attackers shifted to different sections of the two-mile 
American perimeter probing for weak points. The Chinese were often 
stopped only at the barbed wire protecting the individual American 
positions, with the defenders employing extensive artillery support 
and automatic weapons fire from an attached antiaircraft artillery bat- 
talion. Daylight brought a respite to the attacks. True to form, the 
Chinese renewed their assaults the night of 14-15 February. Again the 
fighting was intense. During the 14 February attack, Sfc. William 
Sitman, a machine gun section leader in Company M, 23d Infantry, 
was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in pro- 
viding support to an infantry company, in the end placing his body 
between an enemy grenade and five fellow soldiers. 

While the 23d Infantry held on at Chip'yong-ni, the situation to 
the southeast was grave. At the time Ridgway and Maj. Gen. Edward 
M. Almond, the X Corps commander, were seeking to stabilize the 
front line between Chip'yong-ni and Wonju, where the destruction of 
the ROK forces around Hoengsong had created major gaps in the 
defensive line. For three desperate days, the front wavered as the 
Chinese attempted to exploit these gaps before UN reinforcements 
could arrive on the scene. Ridgway acted quickly to push units into the 
critical areas, ordering IX Corps to move the 27th British 
Commonwealth Brigade and the ROK 6th Division over to X Corps 
and into the gap south of Chip'yong-ni. The action proved timely. On 
the night of 13-14 February, the Chinese conducted major assaults at 
Chip'yong-ni, Ch'uam-ni, five miles southeast of Chip'yong-ni, and at 
Wonju. But supported by massed artillery and air support, the UN 
forces repulsed the attacks, causing heavy Chinese casualties. 

To provide additional support, the IX Corps, commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Bryant E. Moore, now began directly assisting the X Corps in 
restoring the front and relieving Chip'yong-ni. On 14 February the 5th 
Cavalry, detached from the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, was taken out of 
IX Corps reserve and assigned the relief mission. For the task, the 
three infantry battalions of the 5th Cavalry were reinforced with two 
field artillery battalions, two tank companies, and a company each of 
combat engineers and medics. Initially the relief force advanced rapid- 
ly, making half the twelve-mile distance to Chip'yong-ni from the 
main U.S. defensive line on the first day. Damaged bridges and road- 
blocks then slowed movement. On the morning of the fifteenth, two of 
the infantry battalions assaulted enemy positions on the high ground 
north of the secondary road leading to Chip'yong-ni. When the attack 
stalled against firm Chinese resistance, Col. Marcel Crombez, 5th 


Cavalry commander, organized a force of twenty- three tanks, with 
infantry and engineers riding on them, to cut through the final six 
miles to the 23d Infantry. The tank-infantry force advanced in the late 
afternoon, using mobility and firepower to run a gauntlet of enemy 
defenses. Poor coordination between the tanks and supporting artillery 
made progress slow. Nevertheless, in an hour and fifteen minutes the 
task force reached the encircled garrison and spent the night there. At 
daylight the tanks returned to the main body of the relief force unop- 
posed and came back to Chip'yong-ni spearheading a supply column. 
With the defenders resupplied and linked up with friendly forces, the 
siege could be considered over. UN casualties totaled 404, including 
52 soldiers killed. Chinese losses were far greater. Captured docu- 
ments later revealed that the enemy suffered at least 5,000 casualties. 
The defense of Chip'yong-ni was a major factor in the successful 
blunting of the Chinese counteroffensive in February 1951 and a major 
boost to UN morale. 

Elsewhere on 15 February, the efforts to restore the front finally 
bore fruit. Rather than take advantage of the weakened front to the 
east, the Chinese had chosen to concentrate on eliminating the U.S. 
forces at Chip'yong-ni first. But they had chosen poorly, and the 
respite allowed Moore and Almond to restore their lines. 
Reinforcements, particularly the U.S. 7th Infantry Division and 187th 
Airborne RCT, helped the South Koreans form a solid line around 
Wonju and near Chech' on, twenty miles to the southwest. By the eigh- 
teenth the Communist offensive was spent, and enemy forces began 
withdrawing to the north rather than attempting to hold what they had 
taken. Such tactics would become the familiar way that the 
Communists would indicate the end of their offensives. Heavy casual- 
ties and the need for resupply and reorganization frequently forced the 
Chinese to break direct contact and pull back. UN firepower was sim- 
ply too strong. 

With the enemy withdrawing, Ridgway immediately ordered an 
advance by the IX Corps, while the X Corps moved to destroy the 
Communist forces around Chech' on in the central sector. By the nine- 
teenth the initiative had completely shifted back to the United Nations 
Command. The new offensive became formalized on 20 February as 
Operation Killer. Ridgway hoped that the name would help encour- 
age an offensive spirit in the Eighth Army. The IX, X, and ROK III 
Corps were directed north toward a line, named Arizona, running from 
Yangp'yong east to positions north of Hoengsong and along the east- 
west portion of the Wonju-Kangnung highway, all about twelve to fif- 
teen miles above the current front line. The operation was designed to 


M4 tanks of the 89th Tank Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, cross the 
Han River, 7 March 1951. (National Archives) 

enhance the damage to enemy forces and in practice proved methodi- 
cal, often slowed by the spring thaw and heavy rains that swelled 
streams and turned roads into seas of mud. By 28 February all units 
had reached their Killer objectives, in the process finally eliminating 
all enemy forces south of the Han River. Nevertheless, many enemy 
units escaped by withdrawing north under cover of inclement weather. 

With General MacArthur's support, Ridgway planned a new oper- 
ation, code-named Ripper, to continue the advance twenty to thirty 
miles northward to a new line, Idaho. Line Idaho was in an arc with its 
apex just south of the 38th Parallel. The major objectives of Ripper 
included the recapture of Seoul and of the towns of Hongch'on, fifty 
miles west of Seoul, and Ch'unch'on, fifteen miles farther to the north. 
However, the destruction of enemy forces continued to be more impor- 
tant than geographical objectives. Although the removal of all 
Communist forces from areas south of the 38th Parallel and the 
restoration of South Korea's prewar boundaries remained a broad 
strategic objective, weakening the enemy's military power was the pri- 
mary operational goal. 


Ripper commenced on 7 March with the I and IX Corps on the west 
near Seoul and Hoengsong and X and ROK III Corps in the east. One of 
the largest UN artillery bombardments of the war preceded the offen- 
sive. On the left, the U.S. 25th Infantry Division quickly crossed the Han 
and established a bridgehead. Farther to the east, IX Corps reached its 
first phase line on 1 1 March. Three days later the advance proceeded to 
the next phase line. During the night of 14-15 March, elements of the 
ROK 1st Division and U.S. 3d Infantry Division liberated Seoul. The 
capital city changed hands for the fourth and last time in the war. The 
Communist forces were compelled to abandon it when the UN approach 
to the east of the city threatened the defenders with encirclement. 


Following the recapture of 
Seoul, Communist forces retreated 
northward, conducting skillful 
delaying actions that utilized the 
rugged, muddy terrain to maxi- 
mum advantage, particularly in the 
mountainous X Corps sector. 
Despite such obstacles, Ripper 
pressed on throughout March. In 
the mountainous central region, the 
IX and X Corps pushed forward 
methodically, the IX Corps against 
light opposition and the X Corps 
against staunch enemy defenses. 
Hongch'on was taken on the fif- 
teenth and Ch'unch'on secured on 
the twenty-second. The capture of 
Ch'unch'on was the last major 
ground objective of Operation 
Ripper. UN forces had advanced 
north an average of thirty miles 
from their start lines. However, 
while the Eighth Army units had 
occupied their principal geograph- 
ic objectives, the goal of destroy- 
ing enemy forces and equipment 
had again proved elusive. More 
often than not, the enemy withdrew 
before he could receive extensive 
damage. Ch'unch'on, a major 
Communist supply hub, was empty 
by the time UN forces finally occupied it. 

Even with Ripper in its final stages, Ridgway's staff was planning 
a new operation. Code-named Courageous, it was designed to trap 
large Chinese and North Korean forces in the area between the Han 
and Imjin Rivers north of Seoul, opposite I Corps. The operation fea- 
tured a parachute drop by the 187th Airborne RCT onto the south 
bank of the Imjin River near Munsan-ni, twenty miles north of the cur- 
rent front line, and a rapid advance by an armored task force. Both the 
airborne drop, which used over a hundred C-119 Flying Boxcar trans- 
port aircraft, and the armored movement were successfully executed. 
The drop took place on 22 March, and Task Force Growdon (made up 



Chinese prisoners captured north of the Imjin River by the 
1st Cavalry Division (National Archives) 

of armored elements from the U.S. 24th Infantry Division's 6th 
Medium Tank Battalion, borrowed from IX Corps, and infantry ele- 
ments from the U.S. 3d Infantry Division) linked up with the para- 
troopers on the twenty-third. The 187th faced only weak resistance, 
and the armored task force faced primarily minefields rather than 
active defenses. However, once again Communist forces withdrew 
more rapidly than the UN forces could advance to trap them. 

As March 1951 drew to a close Eighth Army units were nearing 
the 38th Parallel. However, with indications that the Chinese and 
North Koreans were massing forces for a spring offensive, Ridgway 
decided to move even farther north to secure more defensible posi- 
tions. President Harry S. Truman and General Mac Arthur agreed. 
The new advance was divided into two sub-operations code-named 
Rugged and Dauntless. The first, Operation Rugged, was designed 
to secure a new line, Kansas, just north of the 38th Parallel. The sec- 
ond, Operation Dauntless, would see the UN forces continue twen- 
ty miles farther to the north to another line, designated Wyoming. 
Wyoming would then be transformed into a heavily defended outpost 
line. When the Communists opened their next offensive, the forces 
along Wyoming were to conduct a fighting withdrawal south to Line 
Kansas, while causing the maximum amount of casualties and dis- 


ruption to the enemy. The main defensive battle would then be 
fought along Kansas. Ridgway also intended Dauntless to threaten 
the enemy logistical hub located in a region nicknamed the Iron 
Triangle, northwest of Kumhwa, a crossroads town twenty miles 
north of Line Kansas. 

The two-phase operation began on 1 April, with the I and IX 
Corps in the west and the ROK I Corps in the east reaching Line 
Kansas by the fifth. In the center, the X and ROK III Corps were also 
closing in on the line after a late start. Then the I and IX Corps 
moved forward toward Ch'orwon, southwest of the Iron Triangle, and 
reached an intermediate phase line, Utah, by the eleventh. To their 
right, X Corps forces took a dam overlooking the Hwach'on 
Reservoir five days later. On 20 April, the last UN forces, the U.S. 7th 
Infantry Division and the ROK 3d Division of the X Corps, reached 
Line Kansas. Final preparations began to continue the advance to 
Line Wyoming. However, all UN offensive action ceased when 
Communist forces launched their spring offensive across the entire 
front on 22 April. 

During Operation Rugged turbulence at the higher American 
command levels led to significant leadership changes in the Far East 
Command and the Eighth Army. On 10 April, as the result of a dis- 
agreement over strategy, President Truman relieved General 
Mac Arthur as Commander in Chief, U.S. Far East Command, replac- 
ing him with General Ridgway. Four days later, Lt. Gen. James A. Van 
Fleet, in turn, replaced Ridgway as Eighth Army commander. 
MacArthur had long chafed at the limitations imposed on him, espe- 
cially those restricting direct action against the People's Republic of 
China. In March he expressed his views in a letter to Congressman 
Joseph Martin of Massachusetts, who made the letter public in early 
April. Truman saw the action as just one more example of 
MacArthur's attempts to defy his authority as Commander in Chief. 
Accordingly, after consulting with selected members of his cabinet 
and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president removed the venerable and 
popular World War II general. This action created a political firestorm 
in the United States, but its impact on battlefield operations, other than 
the change at the highest levels of command, was minimal. 

The new offensive was the Chinese's fifth of the war. At the time, 
UN forces were astride or slightly north of Line Kansas, which extend- 
ed 116 miles from the confluence of the Han and Imjin Rivers on the 
west, following the Imjin northeast to the 38th Parallel, then generally 
following the parallel easterly along good defensive terrain to the Sea 
of Japan. The lead units of the I and IX Corps had advanced forward 


of Kansas to Line Utah, well on their way to Line Wyoming. Both 
corps took the brunt of the offensive conducted by three Chinese army 
groups (called fronts by the Chinese) and a North Korean corps con- 
verging from the north and northwest and aiming for the northeast- 
southwest corridor leading fifty miles down to Seoul (the Yonch'on- 
Uijongbu-Seoul corridor). 

The offensive actually began in the center of the UN line during 
the night of 21-22 April with a Chinese assault on the ROK 6th 
Division west of the Hwach'on Reservoir. The weight of the enemy 
attack broke through the division, exposing the flanks of the adjacent 
U.S. 24th Infantry Division in the X Corps sector to the west and the 


U.S. 1st Marine Division to the 
east. A follow-on Chinese push the 
next day completed the collapse of 
the ROK 6th and advanced south 
of Kap'yong, twenty miles south- 
west of the reservoir. There ele- 
ments of the British 27th Brigade 
and the attached U.S. 72d Tank 
Battalion finally held off the 
attacking Chinese forces, enabling 
an orderly UN withdrawal. For this 
action Company A, 72d Tank 
Battalion, and the Australian and 
Canadian battalions of the British 
brigade were later awarded the 
Presidential Unit Citation. 

In the I Corps sector, the 24th 
Division and the Turkish Brigade 
bore the direct impact of the 
Chinese main effort. The I and IX 
Corps immediately began with- 
drawing southward to prepared 
positions along Line Kansas. 
These objectives were reached the 
next day. Also in the I Corps, 
multinational UN forces from 
Belgium, the Philippines, the 
United Kingdom, and the United 
States were fighting a series of 
intense battles as the enemy 
crossed the Imiin River and estab- 

lished bridgeheads on the southern bank. By the twenty-third most I 
and IX Corps units were back on Line Kansas. 

Also on 23 April the Chinese offensive expanded to the east and 
east-central areas. A successful North Korean advance against the 
ROK 5th Division in the center, on the right flank of the X Corps, 
enabled the enemy to move below Line Kansas and Inje, the major 
town located in the west halfway between the Hwach'on Reservoir and 
the Sea of Japan. Along the Imjin, the Chinese penetrated between the 
positions of the ROK 1st Division and the British 29th Brigade in the I 
Corps sector. Enemy forces then surrounded the 29th Brigade's 
Gloucestershire Battalion on a hilltop near Solma-ri, several miles 


south of the Imjin. The Gloucesters put up a heroic defense, which 
later won them a U.S. Presidential Unit Citation. When relief attempts 
failed to reach the battalion and an early breakout effort collapsed on 
the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth, the battalion attempted to break out 
on its own and was destroyed, with most of its surviving members cap- 
tured. The inability of I Corps to extract the Gloucestershire Battalion 
was due to a combination of factors: poor decisions, unreliable com- 
munications, rough terrain, and determined enemy resistance. The cost 
was heavy: 20 British soldiers killed, 35 wounded, and 575 missing in 
action and presumed captured. 

Despite the extensive use of air strikes and massed artillery, the 
multiple enemy penetrations destroyed Eighth Army hopes of estab- 
lishing a firm defensive line along Kansas. On 25 April Maj. Gen. 
Frank W. Milburn, the I Corps commander, ordered a further with- 
drawal to a new line, Delta, located roughly ten miles south of Kansas, 
and a subsequent fall back to a line closer to Seoul designated 
Golden. It was now obvious that the objective of the Chinese offensive 
was nothing less than the recapture of Seoul. The withdrawal of I 
Corps forced Van Fleet to move the rest of the Eighth Army back all 
across its front. He hurriedly created a new line as an extension of 
Golden across the whole peninsula, which he ironically named the No 
Name line. 

The fighting during the Chinese spring offensive was again extreme- 
ly bitter. In the three-day period of 24-26 April 1951 alone, six 
American soldiers earned Medals of Honor, including four awarded to 
members of the 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Three were posthu- 
mous: Cpl. John Essebagger, Company A; Pfc. Charles L. Gilliland, 
Company I; and Cpl. Clair Goodblood, Company D. Cpl. Hiroshi 
Miyamura of Company H also earned the medal. All four distinguished 
themselves with exceptional gallantry in separate defensive actions 
against large assaulting enemy forces, inflicting disproportionately 
heavy casualties on the attackers. 

The Eighth Army completed its withdrawal to the No Name line 
by 28 April. Although torrential rainstorms slowed the maneuver, they 
hindered the Chinese advance as well. The new defenses were sited on 
good terrain and held. Once the Chinese attack was spent, UN forces 
limited their activities to patrolling and local counterattacks. The 
Communists had failed to recapture Seoul and, with UN forces in 
good defensible positions, any renewed offensive would face even less 
chance of succeeding. 

The new Eighth Army line extended from the Han estuary east in 
an arc six miles north of Seoul and then continued east along the Han 


for twenty miles to the town of Tokso-ri, then northeast across the 
peninsula to Taep'o-ri, a port on the east coast. On 30 April, fearing a 
new Communist effort to take Seoul, General Van Fleet started shift- 
ing forces westward, shoring up the area around the capital. This left a 
primarily ROK force in the mountainous sectors of the X and ROK III 
Corps. He also fortified the line as much as possible. While Eighth 
Army units improved their positions over the next week, the front was 
quiet, with little contact between opposing forces. Van Fleet, taking 
advantage of the lull, issued instructions for the Eighth Army to 
advance forty miles back to Line Kansas. On 9 May UN forces made 


limited attacks north, while inten- 
sifying preparations for yet another 
major offensive slated to begin on 
the twelfth. But on the eleventh, 
intelligence indicated that the 
enemy was once again ready to 
renew his own offensive, and all 
UN attack planning was halted. 

The Chinese Communists' 
renewed offensive began on 16 May. 
This time the enemy struck the east- 
ern portion of the front, along the 
boundary between the X Corps and 
ROK III Corps. The Chinese had 
shifted five armies eastward 
between 10 and 16 May, and the 
attack came across the Soyang River 
against four ROK divisions. The 
ROK 5th and 7th Divisions, under 
X Corps control, were withdrawn 
southward in a matter of hours. 
However, the ROK III Corps failed 
to extract its two threatened units, 
the ROK 3d and 9th Divisions, and 
the Chinese quickly destroyed both 
and poured through the resulting 
gap. The enemy advanced as far as 
Soksa-ri, thirty-five miles south of 
the original front. 

West of the breakthrough the X 
Corps' U.S. 2d Infantry Division 
attempted to stem the Chinese tide. 
In addition to facing fierce enemy attacks to its front, the division had 
to contend with the collapse of the ROK units on its right flank. But 
despite heavy losses, the division held its ground. Meanwhile, Van 
Fleet rushed the U.S. 3d Infantry Division to the X Corps from Seoul 
to cover the ROK III Corps' withdrawal. Reassuringly, in the east the 
ROK I Corps continued to conduct an orderly retreat to a new line 
along the main east-west Kangnung-Soksa-ri road. 

The combination of the stiff resistance of units such as the U.S. 2d 
Infantry Division, the orderly withdrawal of the ROK forces in the east, 
and the shifting of reinforcements stopped the Communist advance. As 


Engineers probe for enemy mines ahead of a creeping tank south 
of Ch'orwon, 10 June 1951. (National Archives) 

in all previous Chinese offensives, the attack lost its impetus after a cou- 
ple of days when the combination of heavy casualties and poor resupply 
caught up with the Communist troops. In typical fashion, the enemy fell 
back to regroup, allowing the UN front to stabilize. Unknown to the 
defenders, this was to be the last major Chinese offensive of the war. 

Unwilling to give the enemy a chance to reorganize for another 
attack, Van Fleet directed the Eighth Army to shift immediately onto 
the offensive. Once again the goal was to regain the better defensive 
positions of Line Kansas slightly north of the 38th Parallel. The new 
UN advance was also designed to exact maximum enemy casualties 
and, hopefully, destroy or cut off major enemy units. The counterof- 
fensive quickly secured positions along key road networks in the cen- 
tral area around the towns of Hwach'on and Inje, inflicting heavy 
casualties in the process. Inje and Hwach'on were back in Eighth 
Army hands by 27 May, and escape routes south of the Hwach'on 
Reservoir were severed. However, mud, rain, and effective Chinese 
delaying actions impeded efforts to close all of the escape routes, pre- 
cluding the complete destruction of enemy forces and supply bases. 

On 1 June Secretary of State Dean Acheson indicated U.S. will- 
ingness to accept a cease-fire line in the vicinity of the 38th Parallel. 


At the time UN forces were again at, or slightly north of, the parallel. 
The secretary of state's feeler expressed a policy espoused earlier in 
May by President Truman, which in turn imposed definite limitations 
on the Eighth Army's advance. Once UN forces reached the defensible 
positions of Line Kansas and its outpost Line Wyoming, the attack 
north would stop and measures would be taken to fortify the front. On 
11 June the U.S. 3d Infantry Division, in the I Corps zone, captured 
Ch'orwon on Line Wyoming south of the Iron Triangle. By the fif- 
teenth UN forces had closed on Line Kansas everywhere, while in the 
west the I and IX Corps had moved in force to Line Wyoming, secur- 
ing the lateral road running east- west between Ch'orwon and 
Kumhwa, fifteen miles to the east. 

For the rest of June, UN forces continued to improve their defensive 
positions, heavily fortifying Line Kansas. Meanwhile the Air Force, 
with mixed success, executed Operation Strangle, a massive effort to 
interdict Communist supply routes by air. The UN line was anchored in 
the west along the Han estuary just south of the 38th Parallel. From 
there it extended to the northeast south of the Iron Triangle, curved 
around the UN-controlled Hwach'on Reservoir, and then rose steeply 
north to meet the Sea of Japan on the east coast forty-two miles north of 
the parallel. With minor modifications, this front became the cease-fire 
line agreed to in 1953 and is still in place a half-century later. 

On 23 June the Soviet ambassador to the UN called for cease-fire 
negotiations. As the real possibility of negotiations loomed, Eighth 
Army forces continued to improve their positions, building strong- 
points and conducting active patrolling. Since April the enemy had 
suffered more than 200,000 casualties and heavy losses in equipment, 
drastically impairing his ability to conduct large-scale offensive opera- 
tions. On 2 July the Chinese and North Koreans finally agreed to 
cease-fire negotiations. The parties agreed on the choice of Kaesong, a 
village north of the front line in the eastern sector, as the site for the 
talks, and the meetings formally began in early July. The negotiations 
marked the end to major offensives conducted by both sides. However, 
both the talks and the fighting would continue for two long years, with 
the war characterized by small-scale infantry battles to gain control of 
hilltops and other tactically critical pieces of terrain. Despite peace 
talks, the war was not yet over. 


The winter and spring campaigns of 1951 are a bridge between the 
mobile battles of 1950 and the static warfare that marked the last two 


years of the war. The defeat of the Communist advance into South 
Korea and the restoration of a firm defensive line roughly along the 
38th Parallel decided the outcome of the war and guaranteed the future 
of South Korea. U.S. and UN resolve in the subsequent summer fight- 
ing brought the Chinese and North Koreans to the peace table. The 
American response to the shock of the Chinese intervention evolved 
into a firm determination to limit the objectives of the war to the con- 
tinued existence of South Korea. There would be no reconquest of 
North Korea or any widening of the war. This strategic shift led to the 
dismissal of its principal opponent, General of the Army Douglas 
MacArthur. Wars and operations with limited strategic objectives have 
been a feature of American global strategy ever since. 

The concept of limited war affected the Army in many ways. In 
April 1951 the United States armed forces adopted an individual rota- 
tion policy. American soldiers were no longer expected to remain in 
the theater of operations for the duration of the conflict but would now 
be rotated back to the United States after a specific period of time, 
roughly a year. U.S. forces would subsequently follow a similar rota- 
tion policy in Vietnam. Theater commanders could expect only a lim- 
ited number of reinforcements and replacements, with inadequate 
training and personnel turbulence becoming familiar problems as 
experienced personnel steadily returned to the United States. 

Tactically, UN forces had proved able to handle the Chinese and 
North Koreans on their own terms. After restoring the front line near 
the original 38th Parallel demarcation line, despite some perilous 
moments, the UN halted rather promptly the massive CCF spring 
offensive and quickly regained the lost ground. Although the enemy 
often took advantage of the hastily organized and equipped ROK divi- 
sions, those units improved considerably by mid- 1951. UN comman- 
ders had learned how to deal with the Chinese style of warfare — char- 
acterized by furious offensive operations, only marginally sustained, 
followed by withdrawal and regrouping. Failed offensives convinced 
the Communists that the conquest of South Korea was no longer possi- 
ble under the existing conditions and made the cease-fire table an 
appealing option. 


Further Readings 

Appleman, Roy C. Ridgway Duels for Korea. College Station: Texas 

A&M University Press, 1990. 
Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-53. New 

York: Time Books, 1988. 
Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New 

York: Macmillan, 1963. 
Mossman, Billy C. Ebb and Flow: November 1950-July 1951. United 

States Army in the Korean War. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army 

Center of Military History, 1990. 
Schnabel, James. Policy and Direction: The First Year. United States 

Army in the Korean War. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of 

Military History, 1972. 


CMH Pub 19-9 

Cover: 3d Division infantrymen climb the trail to their objective near 
Uijongbu, 23 March 1951. (National Archives) 

PIN : 078426-000